Matt Grzelcyk's toughness sparks Bruins in big blowout win in Game 2

Matt Grzelcyk's toughness sparks Bruins in big blowout win in Game 2

BOSTON – Michael Ferland threw a couple of big hits to show his toughness at the start of Game 2 while blasting Matt Grzelcyk with a high hit in front of the Bruins bench, and then drilling Charlie Coyle in a shift later on in the first period of that game.

But Grzelcyk showed Ferland and the rest of the Carolina Hurricanes what real toughness was when the 5-foot-9, 174-pound defenseman popped back up from the hit and scored a pair of goals in Boston’s 6-2 blowout win in Game 2 at TD Garden. Grzelcyk isn’t a big goal-scorer with six career goals in 129 regular season games, but the 26-year-old Charlestown native was the biggest gunslinger out on the ice in this massive conference final game.

Or as fellow D-man Torey Krug jokingly called him, “the Mayor of Charlestown.”  

“I think we were expecting a very physical game out of [Carolina],” said Grzelcyk. “It’s something that we kind of had that experience going up against Columbus in the second round so we didn’t get fazed by that game. I think we responded really well. We knew how important it was to take advantage of home ice so I’m glad we got the win today.

“You don’t want to allow yourself to kind of sit back and relax and think too much about it but honestly it’s really special right now and it’s fun to ride this one out and go into game three and have another strong effort.”

The first one was the most important goal, however, as it happened later in the period after Grzelcyk had absorbed the massive body check from the punishing Ferland. Marcus Johansson was wheeling through the high slot when he fed Grzelcyk as the trailer, and the puck-moving defenseman somehow found a hole in Petr Mrazek when he fired the wrist shot at the net. The ability of the smallish Grzelcyk to absorb the hit and answer with the goal seemed to give a major boost to the Bruins, and then got the team off and running in the blowout Mother’s Day victory.

Many think toughness is dropping the gloves and fighting or throwing around big hits, but clapping back like Grzelcyk did with his goal is about as tough as tough gets. 

“It was terrific. I think it lifts our bench when you get drilled pretty good. You know, you kind of chip it off and back to work and scores a goal, whatever it was, two shifts later, so it certainly gives us a lift. I’m not surprised,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[Grzelcyk] is a tough kid, and in this playoff season – any playoff season – you’re going to take some hits, take a number, get back out there and play the game.

“[You] keep discipline and at some point, if you get a chance to be physical against them, you take advantage of it. That’s the way it works.”

The second goal was another big one as it arrived in the second period following a pivotal sequence where Brad Marchand goaded Justin Williams into a holding penalty, and then pointed toward the penalty box while mocking the Carolina captain. Grzelcyk helped make the Hurricanes pay by scoring again on a backhanded shot from the slot after a drop pass from Charlie Coyle, and amazingly the Bruins defenseman now has as many goals (three) in 15 playoff games as he did during the entire 2018-19 regular season.

That’s the kind of thing that makes fellow small-ish D-man Torey Krug stand up and take notice of one of his favorite teammates.

“I’ve been one of Grizz’s biggest fans since he came in the league and we joke about it all the time now that we have a couple of guys under 5-foot-10 winning games in the National Hockey League and three defensemen under six foot so we’re causing havoc and doing the job,” said Krug. "It’s a lot of fun to watch him play and when he’s skating there is no one that can skate like him and break out pucks. We take a lot of pride in that so it was fun to watch he scoot around today.”

It shouldn’t be surprising that Grzelcyk has stepped up his scoring a little in the postseason as so many other Bruins have with 19 different goal-scorers on the roster during the playoffs, the most since the Bruins made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final back in 1988. But it was less about the two goals he scored on Sunday afternoon’s Game 2, and more about the way he popped back up and showed how tough he was by scoring the game’s first goal after absorbing that first massive hit to open things up in that contest. 

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Danton Heinen's play for Bruins hints there's more to his game

Danton Heinen's play for Bruins hints there's more to his game

Danton Heinen certainly takes a lot of heat when it comes to being a member of the Boston Bruins.

The 24-year-old winger is on pace for 15 goals and 38 points in 82 games this season, and has had his moments for the Black and Gold. One of them was in Tuesday night’s win over the Carolina Hurricanes when he stripped Jake Gardiner at the defensive blue line and then pushed the puck up the ice, leading to the game-winning, third period goal for Charlie Coyle.

It was part of a makeshift line that Bruce Cassidy threw together during the win over the Hurricanes with Heinen manning the right wing alongside Brad Marchand and Coyle while serving in a top-6 role for the Bruins. Now Cassidy looks like he’s going to keep that trio together for Thursday night’s home date against the Chicago Blackhawks while Jake DeBrusk, David Krejci and David Pastrnak form the other top-6 trio.

All of it will cease once Patrice Bergeron enters back into the lineup, but the defensive play and assist on the game-winner showed what Heinen can do when he’s operating at full two-way efficiency.

“Sometimes these young guys, they’re not going to win them all, but [Heinen] stayed with it. He really did. And that’s the part I like — the second effort, to win a puck in a 0-0 game, in a non-scoring situation,” said Cassidy, who has given Heinen power play time this season and been rewarded with some pretty strong passing and puck movement when he’s out on the ice. “It was more of a defensive play than anything, and he stuck with it. You need to be able to do that. He made the play, kind of going up through the neutral zone and the o-zone. He’s going to be able to do those with time and space.

“I was happy for him because we trust Danton in those situations and we don’t want him to lose that [confidence in our trust] when things aren’t falling into place for [him] offensively, you’ve still got to be able to do that. [So] good for him.”

The frustrating part about Heinen’s game is that there is more to his game offensively, as he showed in his rookie season when he posted 16 goals and 47 points. He teamed with Riley Nash and David Backes to carry the Bruins at times offensively as a dynamic third line in the first half of his rookie season, but that confidence hasn’t been as prevalent since that point.

There’s hesitancy from Heinen to shoot the puck with a paltry 32 shots on net in 28 games as clear evidence he needs to look for his shot a little more often than he does right now. 

The cerebral part of the playmaking game and the solid hands are there, and Heinen can finish plays when he's around the net. Even the compete level part of it has improved for the young winger. But the confidence that he can create plays offensively comes and goes, and makes him hit-or-miss when it comes to consistently producing offense. 

The humble Heinen even admitted that the long bank pass off the boards for the game-winning goal on Tuesday was a flubbed pass attempt from him rather than a crafty, creative play.

“It’s nice. I felt like I needed to redeem myself after giving away the puck earlier in the shift,” said Heinen, who had three goals and eight points along with a plus-4 rating in 14 games during the month of November. “There’s definitely not a lot of panic. All of the games have been down to the wire. We’re a confident group in tight games and guys make plays at the right time.”

It was clearly Heinen’s time against the Hurricanes at a great time — both for him and for the Bruins.

The bottom line with Heinen is this: He’s a solid two-way, third-line winger who the Bruins still have on the cheap at $2.8 million per season. Right now it says more about the Bruins' poor roster depth on the wings than it does about Heinen that he’s been thrust into a top-6 role, but the hope is still there that he can reach another level offensively at just 24 years old in his third year at the NHL level.

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NHL rumors: Here is Devils' asking price for a Taylor Hall trade before deadline

NHL rumors: Here is Devils' asking price for a Taylor Hall trade before deadline

The NHL trade deadline is Feb. 24, and the superstar dominating the rumor mill is New Jersey Devils left winger Taylor Hall.

Reports last week indicated the Devils were listening to teams interested in making a deal for the 2017-18 Hart Trophy winner. Hall is in the final year of his contract and eligible for unrestricted free agency next summer. The Devils are going nowhere this season, and sit in last place in the Metropolitan Division entering Thursday's games.

So, which teams are interested in making a deal for Hall?

The Boston Bruins have not come up in any recent rumors involving Hall, and that makes sense. The salary cap part of a Hall trade wouldn't be easy to work, and the Bruins also need cap space to re-sign defenseman Torey Krug when he's a free agent in July or find a suitable replacement if he leaves.

Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman, in his recent 31 Thoughts column, mentioned several teams in the mix. But perhaps more interesting, he noted what the Devils are seeking in return for Hall.

The Taylor Hall trade talks have intensified, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen at this time.

“He’s trying,” another GM said of Shero.

The Devils have made it clear they want first-rounders (although they are willing to discuss conditional situations, depending on the acquiring team’s ability to re-sign Hall or playoff results) and/or high-level prospects who are ready to play. They badly need defence, which is why there’s a lot of focus on Colorado as the perfect trade partner. The Avalanche have plenty of defensive prospects and think they can win. Several teams believe Arizona is making a serious effort. Hall is what they need, too. It’s believed Dallas and St. Louis are among other pursuers.

Hall missed most of last season with an injury, but he's been healthy in 2019-20. He's tallied 22 points (four goals, 18 assists) in 27 games and would make a strong impact for any contending team's top-six forward group.

The asking price, as it should be, is substantial, but it would be worth it for teams that strongly believe they can re-sign him after the season.

Click for five potential trade destinations for Taylor Hall>>>

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